Tag: UFC Austin

UFC Austin Aftermath: It’s All About How You Frame It

UFC Austin Aftermath: It’s All About How You Frame It

Sunday night’s return to the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas produced an entertaining night of action, with twice as many fights ending inside the distance as went to the scorecards and Derrick Lewis and Donald Cerrone closing out the show in memorable fashion.

A couple new arrivals looked outstanding. Two of the four bouts that lasted all three rounds were wildly entertaining. Sage Northcutt and James Vick gave us things to talk about as they both try to scale the lightweight ladder. Lewis did what Lewis does, inside the cage and on the microphone afterwards, while Cerrone halted his three-fight losing streak with a first-round buzzer-beater against Yancy Medeiros, who promptly scaled the fence and shared a wonderful moment with Cowboy’s Grandma at cageside.

This was a solid little card on paper and it managed to exceed expectations, which prompted MMAFighting.com and Yahoo! Sports contributor (and all-around great dude) Dave Doyle to tweet the following:

This was my response:


Dave is all the way correct – the pitchforks only come out when we sit through a six-hour slog and even those events that are littered with decisions can get a pass at times because there are one or two outstanding finishes or a couple of intriguing matchups that captured everyone’s interest going in, like at UFC 219.

What’s interesting (probably only to me) is how much the way we frame these events and the athletes competing impacts the way we experience the shows themselves and interpret the results.

This month’s pay-per-view event in Perth, Australia was lambasted going in, but once the smoke cleared, everyone came away talking about Curtis Blaydes’ breakthrough effort against Mark Hunt, the upside of Jake Matthews, Tai Tuivasa and Tyson Pedro and christening Israel Adesanya as the next big thing in the UFC.

Because most had written off the show from the outset, there wasn’t much of time and energy invested into discussing what a win for Blaydes could mean, how Jussier Formiga’s fight with Ben Nguyen was a Top 10 flyweight battle with legit divisional implications or how there was a ton of emerging talent on the card.

All the talk about this event happened retroactively, leaving most people playing catch-up on the key performances that transpired at a show the most prominent voices in the sport didn’t spend much time discussing.

Since Sunday’s card featured popular fighters atop the marquee and a few more familiar names scattered throughout the show, it received more attention in the days leading up to the event, even though there were fewer Top 10 matchups (one) and ranked fighters (six) competing in Austin as there were the week before (three and seven, respectively) in Australia.

But the names were bigger this weekend and watching the fights didn’t cost anything more than you’re already paying for cable and so the anticipation for the show was far greater.

And as Dave said, no one was moaning about there being too many events and too many fights before, during or after this weekend’s event because UFC Fight Night: Cowboy vs. Medeiros delivered.

I believe that we need to get to a place where we’re having more proactive conversations about the impact of various fights, the upside of different competitors and identifying the intriguing elements on every card.

People used to get snarky when I would write my weekly “5 Reasons to Watch” column, especially before some of the televised events that didn’t feature many big names. While there were a couple times where penning the piece was genuinely challenging – I once cited Brian Ebersole’s chest hair as a reason to tune in – for the most part, I can look at any fight card and give you five or more elements that genuinely interest me.

They may not interest casual fans that only parachute in for the biggest events and more recognizable names, but they should be of interest to the most prominent voices in our sport and anyone who identifies him or herself as a fight fan.

The fact that they probably won’t is a problem.

Everyone wants to talk about how the UFC needs to get back to the sporting architecture that rewards winning and makes tracking a fighter’s progression up the divisional ladder easier to follow, but not enough time is committed to charting those journeys and giving attention to those crucial fights happening just beyond the walls of the Top 15. The fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Jeremy Kennedy a couple weeks ago was a great example of this, as was the Formiga-Nguyen scrap I mentioned earlier.

The former was a meeting between two featherweights with a combined 6-0 record in the UFC hoping to break through in division that is really interesting right now, while the latter was a bout between Top 10 competitors in a division that is in dire need of fresh contenders.

Neither got much attention because nothing outside of the main event and how much the card sucked got much attention.

The problem is that now Formiga is a win away from challenging for the title and Volkanovski is probably going to face someone established next time out and everyone will be wondering who this guy is that came out of nowhere and is fighting Myles Jury or Darren Elkins.

Nobody comes out of nowhere; it’s just a matter of putting in the time to familiarize yourself with the athletes stepping into the cage and paying attention to more than just the most popular names in the sport.

We in the media don’t do that enough, we don’t encourage fans to do it enough and that’s how we end up where we are right now.

Instagram posts and Twitter beefs get you more attention than winning fights and athletes are often judged more on their ability to generate pay-per-view buys or their personalities than they’re performance inside the cage.

Mike Perry gets tons of attention, but Neil Magny can’t get any love, even though he’s got nine more UFC victories than “Platinum,” has fought significantly better competition and has been a fixture in the rankings for three years.

Adesanya shines in his debut against a dude who is likely going to be released now and becomes everyone’s favourite new fighter, but Thiago Santos earns his fourth straight stoppage win – against a game-as-hell Anthony Smith – and it’s crickets.

Demetrious Johnson has won 13 straight fights and successfully defended the flyweight title 11 consecutive times and yet we’re still talking about what more he needs to do to “get over” with fans and become a bigger star.

Dude hit the most ridiculous submission I’ve ever seen last time out and is one of the complete fighters in the history of this sport and everyone still wants more. Winning isn’t enough, neither is being one of the most skilled fighters to ever grace the Octagon, not to mention a great role model and legitimately entertaining interview.

Same goes for heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic, who didn’t say much of anything in the run-up to his fight with Francis Ngannou, but went out there and handled business like a professional, which should be the most important piece, but isn’t.

If that doesn’t change, we’re never going to get to the point where this sport operates more like an actual sport.

Maybe it never will because the pay-per-view model requires folks to be excited to part with their money 13 times a year and simply being the best light heavyweight or bantamweight in the world facing the No. 1 contender doesn’t seem to be enough to make a lot of people open their wallets, but if we start focusing more on the wins and losses and less on the things people say or post on social media, maybe that will change.

Maybe if we took more of a long-range view of things and cared about the progression of divisions and not just individual fighters, we wouldn’t be caught off guard by the likes of Curtis Blaydes and wouldn’t dismiss legitimate talents because they don’t have big personalities or massive fan followings.

Maybe if we stopped complaining about how Josh Emmett is in the main event of a FOX card on Saturday and instead looked at it his bout with Jeremy Stephens as the exciting Top 10 featherweight pairing it is more people would actually be excited about what is a fun main card and quality lineup from top to bottom.

Seriously – we’re getting two Top 10 pairings and a Top 5 fight in the strawweight division, plus a Mike Perry appearance, on a two-hour main card that will wrap up early compared to most events and the thing I’ve heard the most about this card is how Emmett headlining is some kind of catastrophe.

Dude just absolutely starched a Top 5 fixture and former title challenger on FOX two months ago. I know he missed weight, but what are you going to do – stick him in the middle of next weekend’s pay-per-view that everyone is going to moan about because it doesn’t feature enough big names so that his momentum is effectively wasted and his chance to build on that win over Ricardo Lamas happens while fewer people are watching?

Besides, people would whine even more if the women were given the headlining assignment, even though the fight between Jessica Andrade and Tecia Torres should be fire and could very well produce the next title challenger in the strawweight division.

If that doesn’t illustrate that there is a problem with the way we frame things right now, I don’t know what to say.

UFC Austin: Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC Austin: Punch Drunk Predictions

Heading into last weekend’s event in Australia, I said I wanted to bounce back from going 4-7 on the previous fight card in Belem and get back on track towards reaching my goal of getting 70% of my picks correct over the course of the year.

That kind of happened, but also kind of didn’t because while I went 6-6 – which is far better than 4-7 – my winning percentage for the year dropped for the second straight event and now sits below 60% for the 2018 campaign.

Hopefully that changes this weekend.

Here are my picks for Sunday’s fight card in Austin, Texas.

These are the Punch Drunk Predictions.

Donald Cerrone vs. Yancy Medeiros

This one feels slippery because Cerrone and Medeiros enter on veery different streaks, but also have very different reputations and track records, none of which line up right.

Do you go with the perennial contender who has lost three straight to a trio of Top 10 welterweight talents or the guy who has been an entertaining action fighter who has yet to crack the Top 10 in his career, but has rattled off three straight victories? I’m siding with Cerrone, even though his recent results make me a little nervous about how this one shakes out.

I think he hustled into the Darren Till fight too quickly and didn’t give the kid enough respect; it was a terrible matchup for him and came overseas, which puts Cerrone out of his element and he paid for it dearly in the Octagon. Medeiros, however, is the kind of guy “Cowboy” has made a career of beating – tough customers who aren’t quite elite, but are willing to trade with him in the center of the Octagon.

Cerrone seems to be rejuvenated for this one and unless that is all talk (which it could be), I think he gets the job done here.

Prediction: Donald Cerrone

Derrick Lewis vs. Marcin Tybura

Tybura could very well grind this out over three rounds, but when you’re dealing with a guy like Lewis who can end a fight in an instant, it’s hard not to pick him in a matchup like this.

If this were someone with a little more seasoning, a little more pedigree, I’d be taking them because Lewis has obvious holes in his game and flaws that you can exploit, but I just don’t think Tybura has the ability to do that for 15 minutes while simultaneously avoiding the sledgehammers that are going to be coming his way. Though I expect him to have success pinning Lewis to the fence and perhaps even getting him to the canvas, eventually he’s going to eat one of those cinder blocks Lewis calls fists and the fight will end soon after.

Prediction: Derrick Lewis

James Vick vs. Francisco Trinaldo

There is a risk that Vick rolls into this one too fired up for his own good after lobbying for a Top 10 opponent and a main event assignment for this card and settling for a date with Trinaldo in the middle of the main card, but he’s been on-point as of late and should be able to use his substantial height and reach advantage to get the job done here.

Trinaldo has been great over the last couple years, going 8-1 and turning in a bunch of stellar performances, but Vick brings a little more weaponry to the table in this one. He’s shown how potent his hands can be in striking exchanges and does a great job locking up chokes using his long arms, so while the Brazilian might be able to muscle him around at points if he gets inside, the more likely outcome is Vick picking away from the outside and catching Trinaldo with something stiff as he looks to close the distance.

Prediction: James Vick

Thiago Alves vs. Curtis Millender

Given how good Alves looked against Patrick Cote last April, it’s hard to pick against the tenured welterweight in this matchup with a UFC newcomer.

While that fight was now 10 months ago and Alves is 34, it’s not like Millender is some young kid on a tremendous run who is going to roll into the cage and out-everything him on his way to greatness. The 30-year-old LFA graduate has put together a nice little run of success, but he’s lost to the best competition he’s faced thus far in his career and I don’t think that is something that you can correct this far into things.

Alves is as polished and technical a fighter as their is in the division and he should be able to out-work Millender in every facet to get a second straight win.

Prediction: Thiago Alves

Steve Peterson vs. Brandon Davis

Honestly, I’m not sure why this fight is on the main card other than not wanting to shuffle the prelim lineup.

Davis faltered in his Octagon debut last month in Boston, coming up short against Kyle Bochniak, but if he can get back to being a more active fighter now that he’s gotten rid of the Octagon jitters, he should be able to have his way with Peterson, a regional vet who has yet to win the kind of pivotal bout that really helps him stand out in the crowd.

Prediction: Brandon Davis

Sage Northcutt vs. Thibault Gouti

This is a showcase opportunity for Northcutt and it should be fairly one-sided.

Gouti avoided going 0-4 in the UFC last time out with a first-round knockout win over Andrew Holbrook and Northcutt will need to avoid getting caught with something similar, but the 21-year-old Texan should be able to get this fight on the ground and finish it there, either with strikes or a rear naked choke.

Prediction: Sage Northcutt

Preliminary Card Predictions

Jared Gordon def. Carlos Diego Ferreira
Geoff Neal def. Brian Camozzi
Joby Sanchez def. Roberto Sanchez
Sarah Moras def. Lucie Pudilova
Alex Morono def. Josh Burkman
Oskar Piechota def. Tim Williams

2018 Prediction Record: 33-24-0 (.579)